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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spirituality and Neurotheology

Time's up for the poll I had over on the right.
29 votes in!
Here was the question:
"Have you ever had a non-religious experience you would call 'spiritual' when studying Science?"

18 voted YES

7 voted NO

4 voted for the third option, "Yes, and I'd consider it religious too."

Spirituality is a emotionally laden word.  To some, it seems inseparable from religion.  
First, we have to define spirituality as some of a certain set of feelings, easily lifted from wikipedia:

  • The perception that time, fear or self-consciousness have dissolved
  • Spiritual awe
  • Oneness with the universe
  • Ecstatic trance
  • Sudden enlightenment
  • Altered states of consciousness

The last three seem to me too vague, covering both mild and extreme states of mind.  Lots of further semantics would be required for it to be clear. 
My aim here is not to discredit those having religious experiences, but rather to point out how the act of studying science can induce spiritual feelings.  These feelings are the targeted areas of study by Neurotheologists.  The study of Neurotheology, also called Spiritual Neuroscience, attempts to make some sense of these special and common feelings.

The secular also experience feelings of spirituality, often in cases where the perceived border of the self becomes temporarily blurred with the world around us.
This, I think, is why study of science, especially on scales of the extremely small or large, can induce these feelings.  The results of the poll seem to back that up.


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